Q&A With Jane: How to Outsmart the Manipulative Coworker

Workplace expert Jane Harper says in order to deal with a manipulative coworker, you must first understand what they are all about. In this case, we have Sylvia, a master manipulative who often displays covert-aggressiveness for the “good of the company”.

To Sylvia, manipulating people is the job. For one, she chooses to be miserable and wants everyone around her to be miserable as well. Every single time, Sylvia goes out of her way to make sure she is the victim. Not a day passes by when she wouldn’t complain about anything and everything and everybody to our supervisor. Here’s the kicker: each time she complains, she also feels guilty of doing so! Her theatrics have got to a point where she’s left with no friends at work.

Sylvia also loves to specifically target employees who she knows are too meek to stand up to her. For example, recently Sylvia complained about an employee not following the dress code just so she could get her into trouble. A week later, a memo went out to all employees reminding us of the dress code. (The employee in question was on a maternity leave and came to the office in gym wear to drop off important papers.) She then started complaining about things she could no longer wear.

With our dear Sylvia, you’re the bully and she’s the victim. I have to see her at work every day, and I am not sure if I can accept such horrible behavior from a manipulative coworker. I want to bring her theatrics to the manager’s notice before I lose my job because of one of her lies. 

manipulative coworker


Sylvia is a master manipulator. Your coworker seems to have mastered the art of manipulation disguised as good intentions or “for the good of the company”. Beware, such people can make you lose your job, get you to do their job, or worse, make you apologize for something you haven’t even done. Manipulative coworkers are the most dangerous of all workplace evils.

The management needs to identify Sylvia’s manipulative tactics. She has played off the sympathy card for far too long for anyone to see the undetected “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. In the end, this is downright unprofessional and inappropriate behavior at work. Someone needs to put an end to this.

Don’t give yourself away to someone like Sylvia, who is a classic toxic hanger-on. She might use your information to manipulate you. Be honest in your dealings and be private in your affairs. The best way you can deal with a manipulative coworker is by addressing the issue, professionally. If such behavior continues, then it’s best you consult your supervisor. Your last resort would be to escalate this issue to Human Resources and get your complaint in writing and on record.

Don’t let a manipulative coworker take advantage because it will only get worse. Take action the next time you are aware of the manipulative behavior before it ends up costing someone their job!

Q&A with Jane: The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at

Jane Harper
Writer. Human resources expert and consultant. Follow @thehrdigest on Twitter

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